For mental health worker Dianne Colbert, a relatively obscure disease known as Q Fever triggered her candidacy for the Australian Christians in the electorate of Ballarat.
Colbert was asked to produce a social report for a proposed saleyard development in Miners Rest, north of Ballarat. She was asked to consider the impact it would have on residents near the proposed site.
Colbert concluded that there was a heightened risk of Q Fever – a virus that humans can catch from cattle - for residents living near the saleyards.
“It’s actually quite a serious health risk to the community of Miners Rest, and it seems like no one took the risk seriously,” said Colbert.
But in a September 2015 update to residents, the City of Ballarat dismissed her concern. “Since there is more Q Fever risk at the current site than the proposed site, and since there has been only one reported case of Q Fever in Ballarat in the past two years, Q Fever is not considered to be a concern in relation to the proposed saleyards.”
Colbert says she was motivated to run for office because she believes the Council acted in a way that demonstrated a bias toward approving the saleyards - something Colbert considers a “pre-determined outcome.”
She runs mental health workshops for community workers, juvenile justice officers and teachers. Mental health is an issue that she is very concerned about.
I lost a younger brother to suicide in 1998,” she says, “Suicide is a huge issue in Ballarat, and I would like to see greater suicide prevention and mental health outcomes for people living with mental illness.”
She proposes mental health training for all teachers as a part of basic training.
Colbert is against the Safe Schools Coalition program, which provides resources to schools wanting to create a more inclusive environment for gender and sexually diverse students. (She also opposes same sex marriage.)
And yet she experienced bullying as a child. “I remember what it was like to be beaten up at the back gates of the school yard and to be called names,” she said.
“I would support any real bullying program. My concern about the Safe Schools program is there’s a lot of ideology that’s very unsafe for children,” she said.
She left school at 15, and worked multiple jobs before joining an itinerant Christian drama group that traveled the world performing plays for 19 years.
“I’ve experienced a bit of social injustice throughout my lifetime, but the best thing we can do is take those experiences and help others.”
Colbert also wants more funding for hospitals, especially to reduce waiting lists and increase the ratio of trainee to experienced doctors.
“The public hospitals are teaching hospitals, and I’m wondering if the balance of experienced staff to staff that are new doctors or in training is right,” she said.
At the 2013 election, the Australian Christian’s candidate Anne Foster gained only 1.2% of the primary vote for Ballarat, but Colbert is optimistic.
“I go into the campaign (believing) that anything can happen and anyone can win and that’s how I choose to look at it,” said Colbert.
“I have a faith in God, and the Bible talks about with God all things are possible, and I know that sounds strange to anyone outside of that but we’ve heard some really strange things happen in this world.”